TITLE: Bright We Burn
AUTHOR: Kiersten White
SERIES: The Conqueror’s Saga, #3
RELEASES: July 10th, 2018; Delacorte Press
GENRE: Historical Fiction
AGE RANGE: YA
SYNOPSIS: Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
This series has been an incredible journey, and I was both eager and terrified to see how it would end. As many of you already know, I tend to avoid series finales like the plague. They’re almost always my least favorite part of a series, probably because I like very particular types of endings where all the loose ends are tied and everyone has completed their tasks—and these are rarely synonymous with happy, fan-servicing endings, which is what this felt like to me.
She could not sleep in those stone rooms, empty and yet still crowded with the ghosts of all the princes who had come before her.
Lada has been one of my favorite heroines since I first read And I Darken, but she was perhaps my greatest struggle in this installment. You see, Lada has always been vicious, but she’s been clever about it; she’s made a habit of outwitting everyone around her, constantly, and her intentions have always been fair: to pull Wallachia out of the mud and see her people thrive without the shackles put upon them by men like the boyars and Mehmed.
After all, fire and blood and death were nothing to a country led by a dragon.
In this finale, something feels lost in her character arc to me. Gone is the conniving yet brilliant young woman who took from the rich to give to the poor, and in her place is a sloppy warlord who destroys innocents recklessly and stumbles into one trap after another. I understand character development and that sometimes, the characters we love become less than what they were, but I believe with my whole heart that this was the wrong direction to take Lada’s story in.
Someday Radu would not long for a time when he was certain things were terrible but had no idea just how much worse they were about to get.
And then, there’s Radu, who I actually admitted in my Now I Rise review was one of the most infuriating characters I’ve ever met in my life. He makes almost exclusively terrible decisions because of his affections for Mehmed, and he is blind to the entire world around him whenever he is in the sultan’s presence. But, you know what else I mentioned in that review: I liked that about him. I enjoyed the drama he brought to the pages. That was no longer the case by the end of Bright We Burn.
He could not have conversations about his future as though his past were not looped around his neck like a noose, choking him with regret and sorrow.
As we near the end of the story, Radu finally begins to see the error of his ways, yet he doesn’t do anything to fix his mistakes. Instead, he doubles down, and while I won’t spoil the action for you, I will say that the direction he takes shocked me in the most awful way. Much like with Lada, I felt like I was reading an entirely different character from the one I’d grown to know in the first two books.
Radu expected to find his friend angry. Instead, he found Mehmed sitting on a pillow, staring up at the ceiling of the tent with a bemused smile.
“I think she missed us,” he said.
The one thing that remains entirely the same in Bright We Burn is Mehmed, who is still this insufferable, disgusting cretin of a man. I can’t say anything at all about how I feel regarding Mehmed without spoiling the entire ending, but if you’ve read it, feel free to DM me—I have quite a lot of feelings about his story.
He had changed his faith, his life, even his name, but he could not change or escape his sister.
There are a million other things I’d like to fuss about, but they’re all spoilers, so I’ll leave them all be; however, if you’ve read it, there’s a particular incident that occurs with Lada that is intended to be a “twist”, and it not only frustrated me that I predicted it so long ago, but it also positively enraged me with how she handled it. (Again, feel free to DM—lots of rage to get out over this one.)
“It seems to me she has tremendous regard for blood. She simply prefers it spilled on the ground.”
All in all, this wasn’t a horrible book on its own; as you can see, I still thought it was worth a solid 3 stars. That said, it was one of the most disappointing series finales I have ever read, in terms of the direction the story took. At the time that I’m writing this review, however, my opinion is definitely not the common consensus, so if you have enjoyed the series thus far, I do strongly urge you to pick this up and give it a chance.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to my friend Lynette for sending me this ARC!